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All reviewssani lodgeday tourcommon roomthe kitchenstayed here for nightshighest pub in africapacked lunchself cateringnice staffpony trekkingperfect placebring your ownamazing viewscheap priceanother guestcooked breakfastland rover
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Reviewed 29 April 2018

We stayed here because we read about the ethos of the lodge - both sustainability and supporting the local community. It was a good decision - we spent 5 days here and did not want to leave.
We booked the 4 day package and then added extra nights. Our stay was in the very comfortable Rondavel - all meals were provided by the Lodge including packed lunch for our hikes. Both the activity days and the days were relaxed at the lodge were enjoyable. Staff were fantastic. Meals are from locally grown produce. Limited internet was available in the Lodge restaurant. We did not use the Common room much as we loved our Rondavel but the Common room had kitchen, dining area and the lounge had a cosy fire.

  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank cfma2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Simone S, Owner at Sani Lodge Backpackers, responded to this reviewResponded 1 May 2018

Thank you for your review touching on the areas of service from our staff, food, accommodation, comfort . It is most encouraging and rewarding to have guests such as yourselves who recognize and truly appreciate the principles by which we have operated Sani Lodge and Drakensberg Adventures for more than 20 years, as included in our Mission Statement of Sani Lodge, a Fair Trade in Tourism certified business;

Sani Lodge Backpackers caters for guests of all creeds, nationalities, ethnicity and culture.

The Lodge aims to provide a Responsible tourism experience that is fairly priced, value for money and thus affordable, environmentally friendly, providing employment for previously disadvantaged people, benefiting communities via social upliftment, paying respect to human rights and to the historical, cultural and natural heritage of communities, reliable and of a consistent standard via sustainable methods.

All marketing via the written word and photography reflects the Lodge in a wholly accurate manner.

Guests are encouraged to give feedback and this is managed by conveying such feedback to all employees as well as responding to guests where appropriate.

The Lodge endeavours to support local businesses, small businesses, organic producers, Fair Trade products and entrepreneurs by providing an outlet for quality products which are then fairly priced to the customer as well as purchasing of goods and services for use by the Lodge.

Employees are encouraged to participate in decision – making processes and have access to information that concerns them.

The Lodge aims to minimise water and electrical consumption and continues to put measures in place to both monitor and decrease usage.

Measures to reduce the carbon footprint and manage the environment are in place such as planting indigenous plants and trees, using grey water in gardens, separation and recycling of refuse, composting and alien plant eradication.

Guests and employees are informed about the environmental policy and practice.

Skills development of employees is undertaken via internal and external training. Local recruitment is a priority and equal opportunity in the workplace provided.

The Lodge applies fairness and transparency in its business practice, management and labour relations.

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Reviewed 23 April 2018

We have been there 20 years ago, it seems that nothing changed. The rooms are a bit rundown, however location - just on the way to Sani Pass - is perfect and staff is friendly and helpful.
The nearby Restaurant has good breakfast and dinner.

  • Stayed: August 2017, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
Thank ThoRa9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Simone S, Owner at Sani Lodge Backpackers, responded to this reviewResponded 23 April 2018

Thanks for your review and we are glad that you could make a return visit. It is great that you acknowledged and appreciated how we have kept the same friendly , homely ambience unique to our rural mountainous location. Yes, our location is unbeatable and our staff go the extra mile to be helpful and friendly. Our restaurant offers good value and quality food as we only use quality ingredients and all our food is prepared on site from fresh ingredients.
Your comment about the rooms being run down is however unfair. The lodge has just had its annual Grading audit and been awarded four stars for a Backpackers. There have been a huge number of structural changes and internal décor alterations which have qualified our Lodge to be graded 4 star with Tourism Grading Council South Africa since 2008 which microscopically examines over 55 pages worth of stringent criteria which have to be met covering every inch of the lodge as follows; ( These pages detailing all criteria are available on the Tourism Grading Website for you to see. Backpackers are graded as just that and not as hotels . We feel that you are judging us from the stance of a hotel where the price far exceeds R180pppn ( dorm bed) and which naturally would offer more in room comforts such as TV)
*building exterior; appearance of all buildings . You would have noticed a new spacious reception office, new lodge verandah and reading room, second communal kitchen, new group facility, new rondavels, new cottages, freshly painted buildings, pot plants.
* standards of accommodation; including all rooms from thickness of mattress, quality of sheets , furniture and furnishings, number of pillows, to matching light fittings, quality of wall paint, flooring and ceiling, temperature control, décor. You will have noticed original paintings in each standard room, tasteful feather duvet covers and blankets, individual bed throws, percale sheeting fitted bottom and top sheet, two pillows per person( in std rooms, rondies and cottages), room wall heater, modern cupboard fixtures and pine headboards, lockers in dorms, Lesotho basket weave décor on walls, shower gel and towels for standard room guests. Each private room and rondavels ensuite for couples have their own tea, coffee, sugar, Fair Trade organic Ethiopian coffee.
*communal bathrooms ; walls, ceiling, flooring , fixtures and fittings, lighting and temperature control, concealed plumbing. You would have noticed completely refurbished bathrooms with glass shower doors, floor to ceiling modern Kilimanjaro tiling with listellos, modern basins, tasteful decor , hand lotion and liquid hand soap.
private bathrooms; walls, ceiling, flooring, fixtures and fittings, lighting , concealed plumbing, liquid shower gel, hand lotion, hand soap.
*public areas; décor,furniture and fixtures, flooring and ceiling , lighting. You will have noticed cypress flooring, new wooden furniture, new reading room and dining area, large selection of books for guests to read , new lighting, meranti windows, modern décor hangings on walls,Kilimanjaro tiled verandah floor, flower pots filled with flowers all over verandahs and in front of rooms, new pine ceiling of verandahs
*communal kitchens; walls, ceiling and floor, lighting, equipment, furnishing and fitments , crockery ,cutlery and utensils. You would have notice there are two fully equipped guest kitchens, new tiled floors, meranti windows, new tiled walls, new sinks, new stoves, new fridges, large selection of crockery , cutlery and utensils, free milk from our cows, tea, coffee, sugar, spices for guests.
*food ; meal presentation and quality. You will have noticed the tasteful layout of the health breakfast over two tables with décor in the refurbished restaurant with handprinted batik tablecloths, art gallery, craft shop, new fireplace for winter nights, coffee lounge with table tennis table and freewifi, indigenous plant nursery, a three course meal for supper, trout and homemade icecream , youghurt and cheese for sale.
*housekeeping; standard of cleanliness in all areas . You will have noticed that all rooms are serviced daily. We separate out waste at source for recycling purposes so that it is disposed of correctly ie compost from food waste and the rest we take for recycling. Kitchens and bathrooms high use areas cleaned every couple of hours. Cleaning schedule covers all aspects of cleaning of lodge.
* grounds and garden neatness; new swimming pool, manicured gardens, new braai area built from attractive brick, guest herb garden, new parking area with gravel instead of grass and new paved parking area at restaurant.
*Welcome, ambience and personal touches ;You will have noticed toiletries in rooms and /or bathrooms, towels available to all, welcome information at arrival, reception office fully manned 14 hours per day to be on hand for each and every guest on arrival, departure, for any question they have regarding onward travel plans, travel advice, hiking and tour information or just for a chat, décor in each room suited to colour scheme. We are shortly to introduce another aspect to guest arrival to make them feel even more special. The common room is a meeting place for all guests and where an ambience of relaxation, friendliness, conversation face to face has always been preserved. As a rural backpackers, we take care of each person's needs and requests as far as is possible and are always on hand to discuss guests needs.
*Management efficiency; professional and rapid response to individual emails ( we are not members of booking.com as we prefer individual contact with each guest) , good information board for guests to see what is available to them during stay including walks in the mountains , individual handling of each guest’s preference of tours/activities so tailor made trips to suit their needs.
*Tourist information; plenty of brochures from other backpackers on display as well as travel guides and local activities booklet plus each room has guest information board or file
*other services ; laundry service offered to guests, basic food supplies available as well as restaurant on site, recreation includes walks, pool, table tennis, horseriding nearby and tours offered by Drakensberg Adventures tours booking office on sit, volunteering to teach English , massage therapy on site.
Sani Lodge is also Fair Trade in Tourism Certified since 2011, which look at 230 criteria set by the Tourism Product Certification Standard which our business is assessed via an in depth audit and must comply with including labour standards, legal and general, human resources practice, workplace skills development, employment equity, procurement, community benefits, cultural sensitivity, environmental management and conservation, health and safety, quality and reliability for guests, workplace culture .
Today's travellers to Africa are more aware than ever before and are attracted to meaningful, authentic experiences and tourism products that have achieved globally recognised standards.
The Fair Trade Tourism certification label represents best-practice responsible tourism – defined by fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.
Fair Trade Tourism understands the positive impact that fair and sustainable tourism can have in local communities and aims to amplify visitor experiences, creating truly transformative tourism options for both tourist and tourism trade alike.
By choosing the mark of best practice, travellers are directly contributing to the livelihoods of everyone involved in their trip, from the staff who work for the establishments they stay at, the communities they support and the suppliers who provide them with services.

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Reviewed 14 April 2018

This is a backpackers resort and although we stayed in one of the cottages, we still got the backpacker "feeling" if that makes sense. The food was, well, different, it was certainly edible but no sort of a dining experience. One night was mince, macaroni cheese and beetroot (go figure). Service was quite surly, not sure of this was because of language difficulties or if they just didn't like their jobs. Anyhow, never a smile no matter how nice we tried to be. Would not stay here again. The experience was made worse by the poor condition of the walking tracks, there were no discernible markings on the tracks we went on and this was commented on by several other hikers. This is not a criticism aimed at the lodge as they are not responsible for the land which the tracks traverse. Just a note of warning is all. The hikes themselves are spectacular - just expect to spend more time on them than is stated on the guide. Wifi very very slow and only in the cafe.

  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Boardie234
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Simone S, Owner at Sani Lodge Backpackers, responded to this reviewResponded 8 May 2018

As a professional Pharmacist with training in psychology/psychiatry and co-owner with my husband of Honeyguide and Aloe self-catering cottages, Fair Trade in Tourism certified Sani Lodge Backpackers , Drakensberg Adventures tour company and Giants Cup Café and Crafts , I am also a practitioner and protagonist of Mindfulness which I highly recommend you investigate to enable you to enjoy your lives to the full without harsh judgement of others and clouded vision of reality . The following information is from palousemindfulness.com website. "Mindfulness is about living your life as if it really mattered," says John Kabat-Zinn. "If you're not mentally present in the small moments, you could be missing half your life. The point is to avoid cruising through life on autopilot, so wrapped up in your daily routine that you don't notice the world around you. Be with things as they are by paying attention to our senses, familiarising ourselves with the present moment, stepping back and developing a relaxed , focused mind. The tendency towards critical thinking leads to contradictory opinions and emotional charges without thinking. “
“ We can all choose to modulate our moods, regulate our emotions and increase cognitive capacity “- Alan Wallace, founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.

“Mindfulness meditation enables training of oneself to relinquish bad mental habits. Rather than being an end in itself, meditation becomes a tool to investigate your mind and change your worldview. You're not tuning out so much as tuning up your brain, improving your self-monitoring skills. Through basic meditation techniques, it's possible to cultivate a longer attention span, develop emotional stability, understand the feelings of others and release yourself from the constraints you place on your own happiness. Much of our emotional experience consists of gusts of negative feelings blowing through the brain. The feelings torture us without being intrinsically related to experience. "Emotions are not actually facts," explains Davidson. “The perturbations often function as our own worst enemies, clotting our minds, keeping us from seeing and responding clearly. In other words, they diminish our capacity to live our lives.”

As an older couple who made your booking via a travel agent in Australia, and not independently based on your own research despite having claim to 33 badges and 13 000 points specialising on hotel reviews, it escaped your attention that Honeyguide self catering cottage was not a Hotel to which you are accustomed. To then jump to the conclusion it was a ‘Backpackers’ was not only erroneous but stated with disdain and condescension. Finding yourself in a place that did not meet your requirements does not qualify you to review anything or anyone in a deprecating manner.
The guest questionnaire we request guests to complete on departure for their personal feedback was filled out by yourselves as follows;
'Cottage staff good, all OK, We enjoyed our stay, Bed was comfy and everything nice and clean. You commented on squirrels on the roof but these animals do not live here; you were hearing starling birds on the roof.' I shall discuss these and other points raised separately as follows;
- Honeyguide cottage is not an entity in any way related to Sani Lodge Backpackers on paper and in reality. It is a cottage entirely physically separate with its own driveway , parking area, and completely self-contained for guests to remain there without needing to venture out or heaven forbid mingle with the Backpackers staying at Sani Lodge on the same farm. The cottage appeals to foreign and local tourists preferring to be private , affording them the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent views of the World Heritage Site Drakensberg Park around them to hike in and from where to explore Lesotho.
- As owners of the restaurant you ate at, we ensure the quality is up to standard by sampling the meal and the one you are referring to was delicious. Good , tasty home cooked food made from quality beef, cheese, pasta, vegetables. We serve a wide variety of set menus for each night which include lamb, chicken, beef carbonnade ,traditional Zulu fare, Thai cuisine, KwaZulu Natal curries…….You forgot to mention the starter and dessert included in the price of our 3 course dinner at R145. Good value ? You bet! . At our staff meeting, everyone remembered you as an older couple which according to Zulu tradition, are even more deserving of respect ( which you appear to have misinterpreted ; note that African customs have quite different nuances ) and they remarked on the fact that not only did you clean your plates, but you returned for another 3 course supper . Note the contradiction in your review with reality? There was the distinct feeling that you were unused to engaging with people of a different colour and language . Do you honestly believe that it is fair to denigrate people of a different culture to yours in the public domain ? Some of the people who served you were the same staff you dealt with at the main reception on checking in ; the ones you declared to be good. Our business has a Fair Trade in Tourism policy on Respect in the workplace that includes respect from guests towards our staff , from staff towards guests , between guests and between staff members. Your glib comments denote DISRESPECT towards our staff and towards guests of Sani Lodge Backpackers which is both shameful and unacceptableOur staff are used to guests from all over the globe each with their different accents ,cultures, dietary requirements and they go the extra mile to keep guests content. You then made another assumption ‘ they just didn’t like their jobs’ ,. Our staff are interviewed on an individual basis by Fair Trade in Tourism auditors to ascertain their conditions of work and overall contentment with salary, housing, perks ( subsidised private schooling by ourselves for staff children in primary and secondary school). Results of these interviews reveals that our staff are some of the happiest and most well looked after in the Hospitality Industry. The last interview was April 2018.

-Moving on to your comment that the walking tracks made your ‘experience worse ( hinted at being related to your stay and then contradicted later....?????)The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in Africa is a World Heritage Site for nature and rock art cultural recognition and preservation and not a public city park with concrete paths and signage. It is a travesty that you allowed the exquisite beauty of this wilderness area ; wild flowers, colourful grasses, birds including the rare bearded vulture and Cape vulture , pristine waterfalls and streams, butterflies, to be overshadowed by one rough section of the ascending path and lack of signage. What a privilege to experience genuine wilderness where mankind is not allowed to leave anything other than footprints…We prepare 1:50 000 maps with signage on the maps and a route description for each and every single hike in the WHS to aid guests navigation as well as recording each guests cell number and ensuring they have our numbers to assist if they are unsure about the path direction.

- WIFI is free. No mention of that. Owing to being a deep rural mountain resort, technology cannot provide fast WIFI available in big cities and we pay an exorbitant fee for a service to guests without charging them. Our business runs off the exact same kind of system .

-The free organic cows milk, tea, coffee, Fair Trade filter coffee, fully daily serviced cottage, quality shower gel, hand soap and lotion ; no mentioning of these little items we provide free of charge as we really care and wish for our guests to feel comfortable and pampered.
In conclusion what does it mean to join the race to gain yourself Trip Advisor points and higher numbered levels if your subscribe to writing reviews based on erroneous assumptions without regard , thought and sensitivity to the consequences of your words? It doesn’t help other travellers, it is detrimental to the ethos and morale of an establishment and its employees and it is downright unfair. We welcome constructive criticism even with our businesses being in existence for 26 years as we respect guest’s preferences and suggestions. However there is a substantial difference when insensitivity and rudeness towards people and environs comprise reviews such as yours regarding your stay , food, tour , tour guide, our staff , different cultures ,paths, roughness of the Sani Pass road into Lesotho and even other guests. An absolute embarrassment and worthy of removal from Trip Advisor. International websites such as AirBnB and a highly effective South African tourism website are turning the tide on abusive rhetoric from ‘anonymous’ reviewers by enabling sharing of certain guest’s reputations within the hospitality industry or only allowing guests with a reputable history to be allowed to stay in accommodation establishments . This effectively translates to disreputable guests being turned away from making bookings where they wish to in the future. The playing field is being levelled and asserting one’s self-claimed status just for the sake of it for all to see on social media is having repercussions.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 April 2018 via mobile

Sani Lodge is the best. I have been in this wonderful establishment a number of times. A great thanks to Scholar. She really knows what service excellence entails. She is willing to go an extra mile and really exceeds one’s expectations to her best ability. She will never leave you puzzled. The staff is friendly and always willing to help out. Never forgetting the scrumptious breakfast I had. I loved the clean bedrooms and other facilities of this awesome establishment. How can I forget the thrilling, effortless, easily accessible and tranquil hike at Stromness Nature trail. It really taught me about responsible tourism. The highlight of the hike is the breaktaking scenic views of which were a bonus for me. I 100% recommend Sani Lodge Backpackers to everyone. Thank you so much.

Stayed: April 2018
Thank irresistiblem2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
TOFF1111, Owner at Sani Lodge Backpackers, responded to this reviewResponded 13 April 2018

Thank you for your detailed review of our Lodge . We certainly do appreciate your feedback from your stay with us and are delighted that you are a satisfied, returning customer. As owner of the Lodge, I shall pass on your feedback to our Lodge team at the next staff meeting to which our two new tourism student interns also attend. We are training two women from the nearest community settlement KwaPitela, in tourism as they both cannot find work in any other sector. We strongly believe that equipping young people with the skills learned with us over a 12 month training period will contribute towards job creation and chances of being employed. Fair Trade in Tourism today revealed in their April newsletter to us, that the impact of tourism on the South African economy is greater than agriculture. Tourism contributes 2.9 % to the country's GDP. That is significant. Thanks to your stay with us, you are enabling people without previous jobs or training to learn skills and be employed .

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Reviewed 1 April 2018

A super cosy backpackers lodge with great rooms, both private and shared. The common room felt like a living room at a friends house and every night I always met new interesting travelers. The staff was helpful giving recommendations on hikes and other trips in the area. They also had a pool which was great after a day of hiking in the mountains!

  • Stayed: December 2017, travelled with friends
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
Thank Jennifer A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Simone S, Owner at Sani Lodge Backpackers, responded to this reviewResponded 5 April 2018

Thank you for your comprehensive feedback of your stay with us describing exactly the ambience we aim to create for travelers; a homely place to chill and converse with each other. It's what makes Sani Lodge Backpackers unique .Keeping the WIFI separate from the main lodge common room and having it in the coffee lounge at the restaurant allows for guests to have the choice of a sacred space to chat face to face with others at the Lodge and another place to commune with technology. There's nothing like sharing stories during conversation instead of everyone staring at their 'phones in silence creating a sense of isolation and marginalisation. Technology has its place but so does good face to face , eye contact and happy communication as we are sociable beings after all !

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